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February 15, 2008
TEMPE, Ariz. — Down seven points with 1:49 to play, Arizona State looked as if it was finished.
The Sun Devils were only getting started.
Behind star freshman James Harden's 23 points, Arizona State rallied to beat No. 7 Stanford 72-68 in overtime on Thursday night. Harden scored the Sun Devils' last four points in regulation and the first eight in overtime.
"It's just remarkable that this team somehow found a way to land on their feet tonight," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said.
It's the Sun Devils' third victory over a ranked team in two seasons under Sendek - one more than they managed from 1995-2006.
Arizona State (16-7, 6-5 Pac-10) played the overtime without Jeff Pendergraph, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in regulation. The Sun Devils are 4-0 in overtime, including a victory over Arizona in Tucson four days earlier.
"A lot of guys don't like to play OTs," Pendergraph said. "We love it."
For a long time, overtime seemed like a dream for the Sun Devils, who watched as Stanford went on a 26-2 run midway through the second half. That spurt wiped out a 10-point ASU lead and gave Stanford a 51-37 lead with 7:59 to play.
"It seemed like about 100 to 2 to me," Sendek said.
But ASU began to chip away, battling the taller Cardinal for every rebound and loose ball.
"They made plays," Stanford coach Trent Johnson said. "We didn't. You have to give credit to Arizona State. They played well."
Arizona State still trailed 57-50 with 1:49 to play in regulation. The Sun Devils' improbable comeback began with a 3-pointer by little-used freshman Rihards Kuksiks, cutting Stanford's lead to 57-53 with 1:37 to play.
After a Cardinal free throw, Ty Abbott hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 58-56 with 33 seconds remaining.
That's when Harden asserted himself. He scored four points in the final 26 seconds - two on a jam and two on a rebound of his own miss to tie it at 60-60 with 6 seconds left.
Harden's heroics might not have mattered if the Cardinal had been able to convert from the free-throw line. Stanford missed 4-of-8 free throws in the final 1:49.
"We had an opportunity to close out the game in regulation if we make a few free throws," Johnson said.
The Cardinal left the door open for Harden, who showed no signs of a flu virus that had slowed him last weekend.
"I'm fine," Harden said.
He was more than that. Harden hit 8-of-17 shots from the floor, and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He also had five steals and five assists - along with four turnovers - in 41 minutes.
"I tried to step up and make big plays for my team," Harden said. "It's crunch time, and my teammates look for me."
Harden scored Arizona State's first eight points in overtime as the Sun Devils took a 69-65 lead with 41 seconds to go.
Stanford's Mitch Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in overtime to pull the Cardinal within 69-68. But the Cardinal missed a flurry of shots down the stretch, and the Sun Devils' Derek Glasser hit two free throws and Eric Boateng made one to clinch the victory.